If you’ve never sold a book before, deciding on a price can be a big mental hurdle.

If you price too low, you may be undervaluing your book. If you price too high, customers may pass on your book if they haven’t heard of you before. So what’s the ideal price?

The good news is that the rise of self-publishing, and particularly on Amazon, has made this question a bit easier. In this post, I’ll lay out some of the factors that should go into your decision so you can maximize your take home earnings. I’ll also share the one price you should never, ever use.

Commission rates

One of the main factors that should go into your decision is maximizing the percentage you keep of each sale.

On the Kindle platform, you either earn 35% or 70%, depending on the price you set for your book. As of the time of this writing, you earn 70% for a book that’s between $2.99 and $9.99, and 35% for every other price.

With a few exceptions, which we’ll talk about later, I recommend setting your prices between these amounts so you keep as much of each sale as possible. A sale of a $12 book earns you the same as a $6 book, but you’ll most likely sell far fewer copies of the book at $12.

Book length and complexity

Even though it’s less important in the digital world since people can’t pick up your book and immediately tell how long and detailed it is, you should still factor length and number of illustrations into your pricing.

For example, the books I’ve published so far are quite short, being around 12-15 pages with a relatively simple illustration for each page. This lets me publish books quicker, cheaper, and get a lot of titles out to appeal to different audiences. Since they’re short and I want buyers to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, I charge $2.99, the low end of the 70% commission spectrum. If your book is longer or has many illustrations, you might charge $4.99, $6.99, or even higher.

Your personal goals and publishing plan

Another of the reasons I price my books on the low end of the spectrum is that my plan is to have many titles out in the market, so I can afford to make less on each individual title in the hopes that buyers will like them and pick up my other books. I can turn them around pretty quickly, and eventually plan to bundle books together into discounted packages, so I’m OK with smaller individual commissions.

If your book is your magnum opus and took you years to write and publish, and you spent lavishly on hand-painted illustrations, you may want to charge more so you can justify the time, effort, or money spent on the book. (Note: I really wouldn’t recommend spending years creating a single children’s book with no plans to produce more, but it’s up to you!)

You might also be splitting profits with a partner, spending money on marketing, or something else that would require you to charge more for your book in order to turn a profit. One thing I’d recommend is setting a goal for how much you’d like your book(s) to be earning you each month, so you can play around with the price and see how many copies you’d need to sell to, and come up with a plan to sell them many, in order to reach your earnings goal.

Other factors

A few other factors that should go into your decision, though I believe they’re less important than the ones above:

  • The average price of other books in your genre – I don’t believe in following the herd when it comes to your books, but if your book is either much cheaper or much more expensive than other books in the genre, it’s good to have a reason why
  • Your launch strategy – more on this in a moment
  • How long the book has been on the market – prices generally drop over time, though not always
  • If your book is part of a series or can be bundled with other books

How I Price My Books

To be totally transparent, here is how I’ve priced my books up to this point:

When I first publish a book, I set the price at $.99 as a short time “introductory” price so that I can announce to it friends, family, and followers. This usually goes for about 2-3 weeks. You could consider this “launch pricing.” This means that I’m only making about $.30 per book, but that’s OK with me early on, since it lets me sell more copies, get some early reviews, and hopefully rank well on sales charts in the categories I’ve picked.

After the end of the two weeks, I raise the price to $2.99 and leave it there indefinitely so I can get the maximum commission, and so I can occasionally run sales where I lower the price temporarily. If you leave your price at $.99, you’ve got nowhere to go except free.

The Price You Should Never Use

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there is one specific price you should never, under any circumstances, set your book at. I see people use this price all the time, and I can’t figure out what on earth they’re doing.

That price? $1.99.

It’s the worst of all worlds- you get the lower 30% commission rate, and you’re more expensive than the thousands of $.99 books out there, which is a negative differentiator. Either go with $.99, or $2.99+.

Unless you’re running a sale of a higher priced book and dropping it to $1.99, I can’t see any reason to go with that price. Even then, you’re only making $.30 more than you would at $.99, and are probably selling far fewer copies. Just don’t.

I hope this post has been helpful! If you have any questions or comments about pricing, I’d love to hear them! Just drop me a line in the comments and I’ll answer your questions.

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